Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi
Primo Vere
Uf Dem Anger
In Taberna
Cour D'Amours
Blanziflor et Helena


Cour D'Amours (The Court of Love)

Cour D'Amours is the fifth part of Carl Orff's brilliant Carmina Burana- a work which sets poems written by lusty 13th century monks and scholars to modern orchestral and choral music. It marks the start of the third act. Cour D'Amours means "the Court of Love". It consists of nine movements, "Amor Volat Undique", "Dies, Nox Et Omnia", "Stetit Puella", "Circa Mea Pectora", "Si Puer Cum Puellula", "Veni, Veni, Venias", "In Trutina", "Tempes est Locundum" and "Dulcissimi". They concern Cupid, unrequited love, beauty, separation, courting, and sweet surrender. The male and female choral voices often take turns to advance the sort narratives, and a boy's choir is scored as the voice of Cupid.

I present below the Latin and Middle High German text of the poems with an English translation, and intersperse my comments on the music.

15. Amor volat undique

The first movement is scored for a boy's (treble) choir and a female soprano. It begins with four clear chiming chords on the flute, glockenspiel and piano. The last of these chords is held while a soothing, warm progression is heard from the strings and woodwinds. This mood carries forward into the next four bars; a languid interlude with a 3/4 flute melody and more warm strings, the time measured by the tap of a glockenspiel.

The boys then enter with the first line. The score instructs them to be "a bit cheeky" ("un poco impertinente"), and their tune is jerky and staccato. The languid interlude is then repeated, and the boys have the same tune for the second line.

The third and fourth lines are sung after a further repetition of the languid interlude. At first the tune is as before, but variety is added to the "merito" by a short semiquaver run.

Amor volat undique,                 Cupid flies everywhere
captus est libidine.                seized by desire.
Iuvenes, iuvencule                  Young men and women
coniunguntur merito.                are rightly coupled.

The languid interval is heard again, this time an octave lower. The mood then changes to a quirky, eastern interlude. A repeated chiming chord is heard for four 4/4 bars, over a set of repeating five-against-four chromatic semiquaver runs on the flute. These lend a striking alien quality to the music.

The soprano voice enters, intoning the first three lines with a dotted rhythm. Each line is framed with repetitions of the five-against-four motif, retaining the exotic mood. The "sub intimo" has a slower rhythm including triplets, and although it is unaccompanied, the flute echos it. The last line resumes the dotted lilting tune from earlier, but is unaccompanied.

Siqua sine socio,                   The girl without a lover
caret omni gaudio;                  misses out on all pleasures,
tenet noctis infima                 she keeps the dark night
sub intimo                          hidden
cordis in custodia:                 in the depth of her heart;

As the soprano finishes her verse, we are again wrapped in the familiar warmth of the languid theme, her last note held over it. After a short pause, we are hardly surprised by the final retort of the boys' choir, and a final repetition of the languid theme concludes the movement.

fit res amarissima.                 it is a most bitter fate.

16. Dies, nox et omnia

If the previous movement is a lament a lonely woman, then this is a lament by a lonely man- a baritone. A very quiet drone is set up in the orchestra, over which a chugging offset discord can just be heard. The baritone's voice is hollow and fragile. The first two lines rise and fall in 4/4 and are separated by a 2/4 bar. The third line is a staccato quaver run. At the fourth line, the chugging accompaniment is replaced by a warm chord. Here, the baritone has a lyric, mournful melody, which continues without accompaniment over line five. The last line drops over an octave in pitch and the soft chugging accompaniment picks up again at "temer".

Dies, nox et omnia                  Day, night and everything
michi sunt contraria;               is against me,
virginum colloquia                  the chattering of maidens
me fay planszer,                    makes me weep,
oy suvenz suspirer,                 and often sigh,
plu me fay temer.                   and, most of all, scares me.
The remaining verses are scored similarly, except for lines four and five which become more complex and grand, gaining swooping semiquaver runs, triplets and incidentals.
O sodales, ludite,                  O friends, you are making fun of me,
vos qui scitis dicite               you do not know what you are saying,
michi mesto parcite,                spare me, sorrowful as I am,
grand ey dolur,                     great is my grief,
attamen consulite                   advise me at least,
per voster honur.                   by your honour.

Tua pulchra facies                  Your beautiful face,
me fay planszer milies,             makes me weep a thousand times,
pectus habet glacies.               your heart is of ice.
A remender                          As a cure,
statim vivus fierem                 I would be revived
per un baser.                       by a kiss.

17. Stetit puella

The chugging motif continues in this movement for the soprano soloist. It introduces the movement, augmented from a simple discord into a very wide 6-note chord. It is heard during the sustained syllables at the end of the first four lines of each verse.

Her melody is tuneful. Each of the first four lines rises and falls- always rising over 3 crotchets, and falling over either triplets or quavers.

Stetit puella                       A girl stood

rufa tunica;                        in a red tunic;
si quis eam tetigit,                if anyone touched it,
tunica crepuit.                     the tunic rustled.
Eia.                                Eia!

The "Eia" that concludes each verse is repeated four times. Here, the chugging motif is reduced from a chord to a single note, and the orchestra doubles up the soprano's tune. Both verses are ended by a single, isolated high note from the piccolo.

Stetit puella                       A girl stood
tamquam rosula;                     like a little rose:
facie splenduit,                    her face was radiant
os eius fioruit.                    and her mouth in bloom.
Eia.                                Eia!

18. Circa mea pectora

This movement sees the first appearance of the full choir in Cour D'Amours, but it is introduced by the Baritone soloist. The first verse is divided into three phrases- line one, line two and lines three to four. The baritone sings each one through; each rises in pitch; and each peaks on a higher note that the preceding one. The first two phrases are in 6/4 time and have a halting, bass-lead orchestral accompaniment; and the last phrase has a series of quaver in runs in the orchestra and its time signature varies from 3/2 to 5/4 to 7/4.

Circa mea pectora                   In my heart
multa sunt suspiria                 there are many sighs
de tua pulchritudine,               for your beauty,
que me ledunt misere. Ah!           which wound me sorely. Ah!

The baritone holds the last "Ah!" over the basses and tenors of the choir, as they repeat the first two phrases in three-part harmony. The accompaniment here is similar to the quaver runs from before, but the time signature is 6/4.

The next four lines form a Middle High German chorus that is repeated after each of the three main verses. First the sopranos and altos enter. Their tone is choppy and rapid- one is reminded of the intimidating "chattering of maidens" that so saddened the protagonist in the 16th movement. They sing the four lines twice, the orchestral sounds dominated by the truncated chimes of the xylophone. Their cry is then taken up by the basses and tenors, who sing the lines in the same staccato fashion, but with a choppy, muted brass accompaniment. The women of the choir have one further set of repetitions of the "Min geselle chumet niet", with the frantic xylophone, ending in five, high-pitched calls of "niet!".

Manda liet,                         Mandaliet,
Manda liet                          mandaliet,
min geselle                         my lover
chumet niet.                        does not come.

The pattern established in the first verse and chorus continues, but with the the second and third verses crecsendoing throughout.

Tui lucent oculi                    Your eyes shine
sicut solis radii,                  like the rays of the sun,
sicut splendor fulguris             like the flashing of lightening
lucem donat tenebris. Ah!           which brightens the darkness. Ah!

Manda liet                          Mandaliet,
Manda liet,                         mandaliet,
min geselle                         my lover
chumet niet.                        does not come.

Vellet deus, vallent dii            May God grant, may the gods grant
quod mente proposui:                what I have in mind:
ut eius virginea                    that I may loose
reserassem vincula. Ah!             the chains of her virginity. Ah!
Manda liet,                         Mandaliet,
Manda liet,                         mandaliet,
min geselle                         my lover
chumet niet.                        does not come.

19. Si puer cum puellula

Curiously, given the subject matter, this movement is men-only. It features the tenors and basses of the choir with the baritone soloist, and no orchestration.

The basses begin with a rapid statement of the first two lines in three-part harmony. They only change from their starting notes once, dipping down on the "pu" of "puellula" and again on the "in". The tenors have their turn on the next line, with the same harmony but an octave higher. Their approach is different- they dip down to a lower note four times in the word "felix" alone, making use of a dotted rhythm. They stab up to a higher note on the "con-" and finish with a flourish on their starting note. The first three lines are then repeated in the same fashion, but quietly, perhaps in deference to the coupling in the little room.

Si puer cum puellula                If a boy with a girl
moraretur in cellula,               tarries in a little room,
felix coniunctio.                   happy is their coupling.

The next two lines see a partnership between the basses and the baritone. The basses have picked up a little of the tenor's flourish and deploy it on the "cent" of "suscresente". Otherwise the have a similar setting to their first two lines, with the dip on the "sus". The next line is the barione's, and he suddently lowers volume on the sustained final "o". These two lines are then repeated quietly, with the baritone's final "o" suddently becoming loud.

Amore suscrescente                  Love rises up,
pariter e medio                     and between them

The next line is sung through twice by the basses in their now-familiar three-part harmony. The next two lines are for the soloist, who sings them at a gallop. The first "fit" and "mem-" a full one and a half octaves above the next syllables.

avulso procul tedio,                prudery is driven away,
fit ludus ineffabilis               an ineffable game begins
membris, lacertis, labii            in their limbs, arms and lips.

The movement ends with a repeat of the first three lines. This time around, the basses begin on the tenor's higher pitch for their loud "si", and hold it while they gradually and smoothly lower the pitch a full octave, returning to their own tonal territory before continuing on their way.

20. Veni, veni, venias

This movement comes as close as any in Carmina Burana to jazz. It is arranged for two pianos, six percussionists and a double choir. In practice, this means that each of the four choral parts, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, divides into two sections that sing together as choir one and choir two.

It begins with a bouncy, syncopated line from the pianos. It is bass heavy, with rapid, higher offbeats. The women of both choirs enter first, aping the syncopated rhythms of the pianos. Each of their phrases is repeated by the male voices. By the fourth line, the repetitions are occurring after each word. Some ringing percussion has been added to the women's parts and snare drum rolls to the men's. The whole choir comes together for some repetitions of the nonsense words "nazaza" and "trillirivos", to shifting accompaniment of chimes, rattles, drum rolls and a relentless piano-led rhythm.

Veni, veni, venias                  Come, come, O come
Veni, veni, venias,                 Come, come, O come,
ne me mori facias,                  do not let me die,
hyrca, hyrce, nazaza,               hycra, hycre, nazaza,
trillirivos...                      trillirivos!

In the next two verses, more use is made of the double choir concept. Choir one intones the words as a straight-laced declaration, and choir two chimes in at the end of each line with a clatter of percussion, almost yapping a "nazaza". Choir one builds a more complex harmony at "capillorum", "Rosa" and "rubicundior".

Pulchra tibi facies                 Beautiful is your face,
oculorum acies,                     the gleam of your eye,
capillorum series,                  your braided hair,
o quam clara species!               what a glorious creature!

The pattern of the choir one tune is reversed from simple-complex in each line to complex-simple in the penultimate line. Their last word, "glorior", spirals around a few times, and then is held while choir two chants "nazaza" four more times, each spiral and each repetition marked by explosions of sound from the percussion.

Rosa rubicundior,                   redder than the rose,
lilio candidior                     whiter than the lily,
omnibus formosior,                  lovelier than all others,
semper in te glorior!               I shall always glory in you!

21. In truitina

This is a contemplative song for solo soprano. The theme is a decision between the modest moral living that would have been expected of the poet-monks who wrote it and a more immediately rewarding lifestyle.

Orff devides the single verse into two three-line phrases. The accompaniment of each phrase is a set of simple, repeated low crotchet chords. Because the soprano melody with a quaver, it remains somewhat offset from the orchestra. The tune has several faltering sections, including a wavering between two notes over the first and fourth lines, and a stuttering, but rising tune over much of the second and fifth lines. I see this as suggestive of her indecision, the regularity of the orchestration driving her subtly forward.

In truitina mentis dubia            In the wavering balance of my feelings
fluctuant contraria                 set against each other
lascivus amor et pudicitia.         lascivious love and modesty.
Sed eligo quod video,               But I choose what I see,
collum iugo prebeo:                 and submit my neck to the yoke;
ad iugum tamen suave transeo.       I yield to the sweet yoke.

The last word of each phrase, "pudicitia" and "transeo" is held over a slow and controlled flute duet, gently supported by low woodwinds and piano.

22. Tempus est iocundum

This movement is tremendous fun to sing and listen to. It has five four-line verses interspersed with five five-line choruses. Several combinations of choral and solo voices, including the boys' choir, are used to contrast each one; but the piano and percussion orchestration is unchanged.

The four-line verses begin with a wild clatter of chiming percussion, and continue with piano and snare drum accompaniment. The first and third lines are sung in a simple harmony, and the third and forth lines have their first syllable repeated five times in a dizzying acceleration.

(All vocalists except the tenor soloist)
Tempus es iocundum,                 This is the joyful time,
o virgines,                         O maidens,
modo congaudete                     rejoice with them,
vos iuvenes.                        young men!

The five-line choruses begin very slowly. They are supported by a low, slow see-sawing on the piano, and a tap-tap-tap of a wood block. They are sung by either the baritone, the soprano with the boy trebles, or the whole choir. In any case, each line is sung faster than the one that precedes it, and the delicious and exciting climax of "quo pereo" occurs at the end. This is sung by all the vocalists, and with rousing, rattling chimes from the percussionists.

Oh, oh, oh,                         Oh! Oh! Oh!
totus floreo,                       I am bursting out all over!
iam amore virginali                 I am burning all over with first love!
totus ardeo,                        New, new love is what I am dying of!
novus, novus amor
est, quo pereo.

Mea me confortat                    I am heartened
promissio,                          by my promise,
mea me deportat                     I am downcast by my refusal

(Soprano and boys)
Oh, oh, oh                          Oh! Oh! Oh!
totus floreo                        I am bursting out all over!
iam amore virginali                 I am burning all over with first love!
totus ardeo,                        New, new love is what I am dying of!
novus, novus amor
est, quo pereo.

Tempore brumali                     In the winter
vir patiens,                        man is patient,
animo vernali                       the breath of spring
lasciviens.                         makes him lust.

Oh, oh, oh,                         Oh! Oh! Oh!
totus floreo,                       I am bursting out all over!
iam amore virginali                 I am burning all over with first love!
totus ardeo,                        New, new love is what I am dying of!
novus, novus amor
est, quo pereo.

Mea mecum ludit                     My virginity
virginitas,                         makes me frisky,
mea me detrudit                     my simplicity
simplicitas.                        holds me back.

(Soprano and Boys)
Oh, oh, oh,                         Oh! Oh! Oh!
totus floreo,                       I am bursting out all over!
iam amore virginali                 I am burning all over with first love!
totus ardeo,                        New, new love is what I am dying of!
novus, novus amor
est, quo pereo.

Veni, domicella,                    Come, my mistress,
cum gaudio,                         with joy,
veni, veni, pulchra,                come, come, my pretty,
iam pereo.                          I am dying!

(Baritone, Boys and Choir)
Oh, oh, oh,                         Oh! Oh! Oh!
totus floreo,                       I am bursting out all over!
iam amore virginali                 I am burning all over with first love!
totus ardeo,                        New, new love is what I am dying of!
novus, novus amor
est, quo pereo.

23. Dulcissime

Before the last sounds of the "quo pereo" die away, the final movement of the Cour D'Amours begins. The soprano leads off, unsupported except for the fading chimes from the last movement, she soars just over an octave between the "dul-" and "-cis-", and hangs suspended on the "-me" of the first word. Her "Ah!" begins a song sustained sigh, supported by a soft, warm chord, and spirals back down the scale on eight triplets (i.e. 24 notes). The tune then turns about and rapidly ascends to beyond her previous peak, where it tarries wonderfully. There is little doubt what this is a musical painting of. Finally, the last line descends slowly and gently to the final "me!", which is met with a closing chord and a high piccolo note.
Dulcissime, Ah!                     Sweetest one! Ah!
totam tibi subdo me!                I give myself to you totally!

The next part is Blanziflor et Helena, which has only two movements. It continues the gorgeous closing themes of this section, but has a crushing conclusion.


  • Imperial College Union Choir's 2002 performance
  • PDF sheet music typeset by Michael Bednarek,
  • The 1997 recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Choral Society under Richard Cooke

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